Hidden gem on Tyneside needs YOUR help
It’s not often you find a place that’s so special, so obviously loved by the people who volunteer there… and so desperately in need of support by the community and organisations nearby.
Whickham Hermitage Community Garden is all of these things and so much more.
Thanks to Vanessa Sundin for contributing most of the pictures!
History of the garden
The Hermitage was originally built in 1790 by brewing family the Taylors and the garden was laid out during the early 19th century with features including a lake and boathouse with a bridge of “willow pattern design”, a pagoda, tennis court and a two-storey watchtower.
However, the garden fell into disuse for about 60 years. It wasn’t until 2002 when local resident Dave Peacock formed a committee to gain planning permission and generate funding in order to restore the garden and prevent it from being turned into a car park.
Between 2004 and 2006, the garden was extensively restored; the lake was made into a wildlife pond and bog garden, a new wooden watchtower was built and fitted with a disabled toilet.
There is a summerhouse (pagoda) and a pergola, paths have been laid, and the garden extensively planted.
The garden was opened on September 8, 2006, and became the Whickham Hermitage Community Garden, reflecting that the garden was created and is maintained by volunteers, and open for everyone to use.
A tranquil, happy place, full of memories
The garden is like a Tardis – it’s on a slope and it’s only when you’re past the first bed of Acers the rest of the garden opens out… then keeps on opening!
Flowering highlights when we were there Rhododendrons, Azaleas, candelabra primulas, peonies and tree peonies, Clematis montana and Wisteria on the pergola.
The garden is worth listing as much for the foliage as the flowers – lush new hostas, ornamental rhubarb, Acers.
If you have a shady garden, the planting is a masterclass in how to not just cope but excel in these conditions.
And there are memorials everywhere to friends and volunteers who are no longer with us – benches, plaques, statues, even the cafe is from a bequest. It’s a truly contemplative and restful place to be.
How you can help: venue hire, volunteering, use the cafe, buy from the nursery!
- Hire the garden or Orangery for events: The cafe (includes tables, seating, wine glasses and coffee machine), television screen, wi-fi, projector for hire. The garden can be illuminated at night. For more information, email Whickhamhermitagecg@outlook.com.
- Volunteer: After a chat with Dave, who told me the garden started off with 15 volunteers and they are now down to four, any help would be gratefully accepted. You don’t have to be a gardener and any age group is welcome – if you can give advice or expertise, help to arrange events or with fundraising, even providing tools and equipment.
- Use the cafe: It’s open to all, the garden is free, so if you live nearby or want a trip out with cake at the end, use this lovely, tranquil place (I highly recommend the chocolate orange cake).
- Make a donation: The garden depends entirely on public money, grants, donations and funds raised by groups from the community centre.
- Help with grant applications: They really need advice from anyone with the relevant experience.
- Buy from the nursery: The small nursery has a lovely range of bedding plants, perennials, shrubs and small trees at very competitive prices.
- Address: Whickham Hermitage Community Garden, Behind Whickham Community Centre, Front Street, Whickham, Tyne and Wear NE16 4JL, email Whickhamhermitagecg@outlook.com.
- Parking: There are three spaces at the Community Centre, but parking is also available across the street.
- Buses: Stop regularly along Front Street connecting with the MetroCentre, Gateshead Interchange and Newcastle.
- Opening hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-3.30pm; Saturday 10am-2pm; closed Sunday.
Accessibility: The whole garden is wheelchair accessible, with a disabled toilet on-site.
- Phone: 0191-488 4275; to volunteer, call 0191-493 2797.